It's essential that your NCT certificate is valid for taking your car abroad. Furthermore, for your own peace of mind (as well as for breakdown insurance purposes) it's recommended you have your vehicle properly serviced and maintained in accordance with the manufacturer's specifications. If any parts are reaching the end of its normal life it's worth having them replaced.
If you've never driven abroad before, you'll probably find that it's a lot less daunting than you think! As long as you take note of a few dos and don'ts, a driving trip to the South of France or even beyond is within easy reach!
Take a look at our guide, giving useful tips on preparing your car for the road ahead as well as ways to help make your journey run as smoothly as possible.
You'll find within our guide, it's essential to take rest stops if you're driving for a few hours at a time. Depending on where you're going, you may wish to consider en-route. Give our travel advisors a call on (021) 425 2300 and they will be delighted to advise you of the best possible options.
You must have IRL sticker which is clearly visible to other drivers, or Euro plates with a circle of 12 stars on a blue background.
Use headlight converters to prevent from dazzling other drivers coming in the opposite direction - remember you're driving on the other side of the road!
Keep a kit in your car:
- Flourescent vest
- 2 x Single use Breathalyser Kit
- Warning triangle
- Can of oil and bottle of water
- Spare bulbs for all external lights. Make sure you know how to fit them
- First aid kit
- In-car phone charger or spare charged phone battery
- Fire extinguisher (advisory only)
Leave plenty of time to check your essential documents, in case you need to renew your passports, or send away for any other documentation.
Passports - requirements can vary by country. For most of the EU your passport must be: less than 10 years old on the day you enter (check the ‘date of issue’) AND valid for at least 3 months after the day you plan to leave (check the ‘expiry date’). Check both the issue date and the expiry date in your passport. If you renewed your passport early, extra months may have been added to its expiry date. This could affect the requirement for your passport to be less than 10 years old. You can check if you need to renew your passport here.
Driving Licence - If you hold a UK driving licence, then you may need to obtain an international driving permit to drive in the EU if you have either:
- A paper driving licence
- A licence issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey or the Isle of Man
Contact the embassy of the country you’re visiting to check what documents you’ll need.
Green card - if you are taking you car on holiday and it is registered or insured in the UK, you’ll need to do ask your insurer for a green card as proof of insurance. Your insurer might issue your green card by post, or they may tell you how to download one to print at home. Request your green card at least six weeks in advance to make sure it arrives in plenty of time. Make sure you take it with you.
Irish driving licences
Take both with you...and remember your charger! Also:
- Have your planned route written down in case you lose signal or your GPS system breaks
- If you can, try to pre-plan where you'll stop off for a rest/refreshments/sightseeing. This can help cut down on spending money at expensive service stations as well as breaking up your journey
- When you do stop, make sure all valuables are safely hidden from prying eyes
- If you use a GPS app on your smart phone, remember this is reliant on an internet connection and that the battery will drain very quickly
- Make sure the most up-to-date maps are programmed in to your satnav
Make sure your tyres (including your spare) are in decent shape for your journey. Check them for general wear and tear - any splits, nail damage, scuffs or bulges, and while they're still cold, check the pressure. When you drive the tyre will heat up, increasing the pressure. They must be the correct pressure to get the best handling on roads you're not familar with.
Check which type of tyres you need - will the weather have an effect? Note that some countries have a minimum tyre type at certain times of the year.
And will you need snow chains? In the winter they're compulsory in France.
Driving through Paris, Lyon, Lille and Grenoble? If you’re planning to drive into these cities, you’ll need a Crit’Air sticker on your windscreen, displaying how polluting your car is. You’ll need to apply for a sticker by registering your vehicle’s details at the French government’s website here. Please allow enough time for the sticker to be delivered prior to your departure. You must display a Crit’Air sticker to avoid a fine.
With air pollution firmly on the agenda, in 2022 the Crit'Air scheme will affect more cities in France, while other countries are increasingly adopting their own low emission zones in major towns. If you are planning to do any city driving, it's advisable to check the local requirements in advance. For up to date information on low emission zones, for every European country, visit Urban Access Regulations in Europe.
Check with your provider that your insurance extends to the continent, you may need to get some extra cover for the holiday. Third party insurance is compulsory.
We always recommend that you arrange your own comprehensive health insurance before you travel.
The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) lets you get healthcare in another EU or European Economic Area (EEA) state for free, or at a reduced cost. Find out more about the EHIC here. Please note the EHIC does not cover you for medical treatment in Switzerland.
Many customers extend their cover with the AA/RAC/Green Flag to allow them to take their car abroad. In the event of a breakdown, replacement car parts can be expensive - especially after adding on postage or if the parts need to be imported. If you have breakdown cover, it must be valid from the moment you leave home to when you return.
Check that the levels of your water, oil and windscreen wash are all correct. Keep a spare bottle of water and oil in the boot just in case.
An excellent way to gain more space in the boot. However, you must ensure when packing that the top box isn't carrying heavy items as you don't want to unbalance the car. Put the heavier luggage in the boot.
It's vital to stop for a rest when you're travelling for such a long time - especially if there's only one driver in your party. It takes a lot of concentration to drive abroad where you're unfamiliar with the roads and signs, and you risk the lives of yourself, your passengers and other road users if you're driving tired.
If your journey time is going to take you 8 hours or more, we strongly recommend you book an overnight stop for some proper rest. Why not give one of our advisors a call on (021) 425 2300 who will be happy to advise you on the best possible options?
Don't let the thought of kids' boredom put you off! With so much available nowadays to keep them entertained there's no reason for complaints!
There's DVDs on your portable DVD player, hand-held games consoles, MP3 players, iPads and tablets, plus of course books, comics, magazines and travel games (like everyone's favourite - I-Spy)!
Remember that when driving abroad you'll encounter your fair share of road tolls. Make sure you've got plenty of change handy to prevent having to root around in a panic once you're at the barrier!
Remember also that different countries will have different rules and signs that won't be familiar to you, so learning them before you set off will make it easier.
Whether you've got cash, credit cards, debit cards or pre-paid cards - or all of the above - do not keep them all together. Check any credit or debit cards you take will be accepted where you're going and remember that each time you draw out cash there will be a charge. Let your bank know which cards you're taking overseas so that they don't suspect it's been cloned and stop it.
Petrol (unleaded only) and diesel are commonly sold on the continent, and LPG can be found at some larger stations.
We recommend you take a petrol can so you're not caught short - make sure the lid is on tight though. This is also useful because some rural petrol stations are not manned outside of normal working hours, and some automated pumps may not accept credit or debit cards.
Finally, make sure you know the correct name of the fuel you need!
Gazole / Diesel
Gasolina Sin Plomo
Benzina Senza Piombo
Umre / Diesel
Combustível Sem Chumbo
Make sure you take any paperwork that you may need to use during your holiday - and remember all of the following for all party members where applicable:
- Driving licence
- Your valid passport with the correct person entered into the emergency contact section. On the day you’re due to depart your passport needs to have at least six months left.
- Keep a photocopy of your passports, as well as copies of other important documents, separate from the originals
- Your visa (for visiting non-EU countries)
- Your insurance certificates
- Your log book (V5C) to provide proof of ownership - you must take this with you.
- Your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).
- Make sure your friends or family know where you're going and that they have a contact number for your destination(s) in case of an emergency (and in case your phone loses signal)
If you book a hire car for your Eurocamp holiday, bear in mind these useful tips:
- If you want to fly into one airport and home from another, consider and research your locations. For example, flying into France and driving into Switzerland may work out cheaper than flying into Switzerland itself - fuel included
- Most car hire companies, including Europcar, offer sat nav hire at many of their collection desks. This can be invaluable if you're doing a lot of driving. Or to keep costs down, take your own with you! All Eurocamp parcs are listed on Tom Tom European maps meaning you can find your way with ease
- If you can locate a supermarket with a petrol station, fill up here rather than on the motorway as it generally works out cheaper. Unless you see a sign telling you otherwise, always fill your tank then pay. Most petrol stations close at night, so if you come across one with a 'pay at pump' facility, make sure your card is accepted before you pick up the pump